8 July, 2014 Middle East Monitor
The Israeli media are unanimous that Gaza will face a major ground operation by Israel in the very near future. In an article published on Wednesday, the military affairs commentator of Haaretz quoted senior ministers in the Netanyahu government as saying: “We have lifted all the restrictions imposed on the army. Now, there is legitimacy to hit any Hamas target including prominent leaders of the movement.”
Amos Harel noted that the political leadership in Tel Aviv has decided that each Israeli raid should lead to a loss of life. He explained that Hamas has surprised Israel with the quality of its operations, especially in infiltrating into the heart of the state from the sea and clashing with infantry soldiers at the Zikim army base near Ashkelon. According to Harel, the prevalent impression in Tel Aviv is that Hamas may have prepared a number of similar operations.
Pointing out that Israel is heading towards the declaration of a state of emergency, he said that it also intends to carry out a series of offensive operations against the Gaza Strip. Israel, claimed Harel, has made preparations for a limited ground operation in the heart of the Strip using infantry battalions and paratroopers. He noted that the small cabinet group in charge of security affairs has ordered the mobilisation of 40,000 reservists for this purpose.
General public frustration will force the Israeli leadership into a confrontation that will serve no purpose and that was not planned for, Harel believes. Three million Israelis have been told to seek safety in local air raid shelters and are required to obey the instructions of the Internal Front Command. This is something that the Netanyahu government did not reckon on.
Harel also noted that despite Tel Aviv’s desire for Egyptian mediation, there are doubts about Egypt’s willingness to take on the role. This means that the current confrontation looks set to be open-ended.
Although the Hamas leadership in Gaza has denied any involvement in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers last month, Harel told Haaretz readers that the latest developments were triggered by the incident.
Amos Regev, Editor in Chief of Yisrael Hayom newspaper, which is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called for “returning Gaza to the Stone Age and for removing the snake’s teeth by destroying Hamas’s arsenal” which, according to him, the movement managed to build-up during the past decade.
In an article in the newspaper on Wednesday, Regev said that a major ground operation in the Gaza Strip is needed to get rid of “the consequences of the failure of past Israeli governments that permitted Hamas to bolster its force in this manner.” Claiming that this is what allowed the emergence of a terror balance between Israel, which possesses “a strong army and a formidable air force” and a “terrorist organisation” that is equipped with thousands of locally-made rockets, Regev added: “This in turn led to the erosion of Israeli deterrence in the face of Hamas deterrence. We should return the Hamas people to a situation in which they can only throw stones at us just as things were during the first intifada.”
Maariv newspaper’s chief commentator, Ben Kasbet, said that Israel will be forced to wage a major military campaign against Gaza, insisting that no state would allow the rockets to be fired at its towns and cities. “Netanyahu will be forced to make a move because he realises that the people around him think that he is hesitant and cowardly,” he insisted. “This is what he will seek to disprove by means of a major operation against Gaza.”
Translated from Arabi21, 9 July, 2014